(See the article on Nayars for general background information.) When at the end of the eighteenth century the British took over direct political control in Malabar and came to play a major role as advisers in Cochin and Travancore too, the Nambudiris, deprived of their political role but still maintaining their status as religious authorities, withdrew to their estates. They remained aloof, preferring to reemphasize their spiritual sanctity and purity. In the first quarter of the twentieth century some of the Nambudiri youth became involved in the Nambudiri reform movement. Through this activity they became directly involved in politics, with many of the older sons aligning themselves with the Congress party but most of the younger sons and women joining the Communists. The head of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for the past twenty-five years, E. M. S. Namboodiripad, came out of the earlier Nambudiri reform movement.
Traditionally, social control was exercised through fear and shaming. Traditionally conflicts were handled by the caste elders. A special kind of court was held for females who were even suspected of committing adultery. These courts came to an abrupt end when one Nambudiri woman named sixty-four men (some quite well known) with whom she claimed to have committed adultery. Today, local conflicts are handled by the village panchayats and more serious and wide-reaching matters by the civil authorities.